Balancing diet and exercise can be tricky, as any serious athlete can tell you. Regardless of whether you’re a hockey player or a runner, it’s important that the things you eat are going to work to your benefit instead of against you. This is often something that many runners struggle with on a regular basis. You need enough food to fuel your activity, but if you’re not eating enough of the right things, you’re consistently going to hit empty at the worst possible times in your training. If you’re eating the wrong things, however, it could lead to you feeling uncomfortable, sluggish, and unable to muster up the drive you need. It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to snacking as a runner, though—there is a happy medium and it comes in the form of smart snack planning.
Understand Your Needs
There are things every runner needs and most of these are no-brainers. You need all the right gear: running socks, shoes, athletic clothing. But you also need the right intake in regard to keeping yourself energized and hydrated. Whether you need to start cutting calories or piling them on, choosing the right kinds of snacks can make it super easy to fine tune what you’re eating.
How do you know what you should be eating or not eating for a snack? Evaluate your performance when you’re running. Are you consistently running on empty before you reach your target mileage? If so, you know you’re going to need to give your body more fuel and you can plan your snacks so that the calorie intake is balanced enough to give you that energy without pushing you into another weight category.
Eat for Color
As registered dietician Pamela Nisevich Bede advocates in a piece for Runner’s World, it’s important for everyone (not just athletes), to “eat the rainbow.” The more natural color you have in your diet, the better. Vibrant fruits and vegetables tend to be chock full of beneficial nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. By mixing up your snack choices—and thus creating a “rainbow”—you’re ensuring that your body is getting everything it needs without having to resort to any kind of supplement.
Timing Is Everything
Matt Fitzgerald, a training intelligence specialist from Competitor magazine, frequently outlines how important it is to make sure you’re snacking with not only the right foods, but at the right times. Snacking whenever you feel like it isn’t going to cut it. Instead, you need to time your intakes so that they’ll benefit you the most. Light snacks before workouts can give you the fuel you need to burn through without leaving you feeling really uncomfortable.
Mixing frequent light snacks with light meals throughout the day can help keep your energy levels impressively high. Timing your snacks can also help to ensure that in during those time periods when you’re likely to feel most hungry that you won’t be tempted to derail your diet and start chowing down on junk food.
A runner’s snacks are just as important as their gear—you wouldn’t set out for a race in just any kind of running socks, so you shouldn’t snack on just any kind of food. Thankfully, with this information in hand, you’ll be ready to take control of your snacking and blaze a path to success as you prepare for the next big step in your running career.
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